Justification is so contrived, in the Gospel, as man
may be abased, and have no ground
††††††††† Thirdly, we come to speak to the third thing mentioned above, to wit, that justification is so contrived, begun and carried on, that man hath no real, or apparent ground of glorying before men, or of boasting in himself. A few particulars will sufficiently clear this.
I. The Lordís ordinary and usual method, in bringing his chosen ones into a justified state, is first to convince them of their sin and misery, by setting home the Law, and awakening their consciences; as Paul doctrinally follows this method, when he is about to clear up, and explain the truth, about Gospel justification, in his epistle to the Romans; where in the first place, he convinces all of sin, both Jews and Gentiles Chapter 1, 2, and 3, concluding verse 23 That all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God, and verse 9 he gives an account of his foregoing discourse, saying, we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles; that they are all under sin. And again verse 19, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Now this work of conviction lays the sinner low before God; for thereby the man is discovered to himself, to be undone in himself, to be under sin and wrath, under the sentence of the Law, having his mouth stopped, and having nothing to plead for himself, neither by way of extenuation, nor of apology; and having nothing in himself, wherewith he can come before the Lord, to make atonement for his transgressions, and to make satisfaction to justice: And thus the man is made to despair in himself, as being irremediably gone and undone, if free grace prevent him not.
II. Whereupon the man is made to renounce all his former grounds of hope, and confidence, all his former duties, good works, civility, negative holiness, and whatever else he placed his confidence in formerly; yea all his righteousness are as filthy rags, and accounted as loss and dung. So that he hath nothing within himself, as a righteousness, that he can expect to be justified by, before God; but on the contrary, he finds himself under the curse, and that what he thought before to be his righteousness, is now, by the light of the Law, and the discovery he hath of his natural condition, found to be sin and iniquity before God; and therefore to be so far from bringing any relief unto him, that thereby his anxiety is made greater, and his case more desperate.
III. The way of Gospel justification is so contrived, and the awakened man (whom God is about to justify) is now convinced of it, that man must be abased; for he is now able to see, that he is empty and poor, and hath nothing to commend him to God, no righteousness of his own to
produce; nothing within him, or without him, except the alone righteousness of Christ the Mediator and Cautioner, that can stand him in stead; nothing of his own must here come in reckoning, neither alone, nor in conjunction with the righteousness of Christ; for what is of grace, must not be of works, otherwise grace is no more grace Romans 11: 6. Christ must have all the glory, and he, who glories, must glory alone in the Lord. And therefore is Christ made righteousness unto us, II Corinthians 1: 30, and is become the Lord our righteousness Jeremiah 23: 6. And all his must say, that in the Lord, they have righteousness Isaiah 45: 24.
IV. Nothing, that precedes faith, no motions or workings of the Law, no legal repentance, and the like, have any infallible connection with justification; nor are they any congruous disposition thereunto, or a condition thereof, there being no promise made, that all such, as are convinced and awakened, and have some legal terrors and works of the Law upon their spirits, shall certainly be justified; and experience proving, that several, who have had deep convictions and humiliations, have, with the dog, returned to their own vomit, and become afterward worse than ever, doth also confirm this. So that, after the deepest legal humiliations and works of terror and outward changes, and the like effects of the Law (though when they are wrought by the Lord, intending and bringing about the elect sinnerís conversion and justification, they have this kindly work upon the heart, to cause the soul more readily and willingly to listen to the offers of salvation and mercy, in the Gospel; and to submit to the terms and method, which God hath, in His great wisdom and mercy, condescended unto, as to the actual conferring and bestowing of the blessings, purchased by Christ, for His chosen ones) justification is an act purely of Godís free grace, undeserved of them, on any account; and an act of His mere mercy and love. So that they are justified freely by His grace, through the redemption, that is in Christ Romans .
V. Unto this justification, their good works are not required, upon any account whatsoever: for good works must follow justification, and not precede it. They must be first accepted through Christ, before their works of holiness can be accepted. The whole Gospel doth most plainly exclude works of the Law, under whatsoever notion, qualification, or restriction, as we manifested above, and shall more manifest hereafter: Yea, all works, on whatever account, are excluded, as opposite to justification by faith, through Jesus Christ. The man, who had no more to say, but God be merciful to me a sinner, went home justified, when he, who said, God, I thank thee, I am no as other men, nor as this Publican, &c. did miss that privilege. Paul hath so directly and plentifully proved, that no man is justified by works, that we need say no more of it; and therefore, in this matter of justification, man hath no ground of boasting, but must glory in the Lord alone.
VI. As without a righteousness no man can be justified before God, because His judgment is according to truth, and He will pronounce no man righteous, who is not so, or who hath no righteousness; and as
no man hath a righteousness of his own, and in himself, that will abide the trial of Godís judgment; for if He should enter into judgment, with any that liveth, they should not be able to stand before His judgment seat, and be justified; but all, who are justified, are in themselves ungodly, and void of all righteousness, that can ground a sentence of absolution from the condemnation of the Law: So it is the righteousness of Christ, as Mediator and Cautioner, which is to them the only ground of their absolution and justification; and this surety-righteousness of Christ is imputed to them by God, and they are clothed therewith; and being considered as clothed therewith, are pronounced righteous by the Lord, the righteous judge, and dealt with as such. So that all the righteousness, which is the ground of their absolution from the condemnation of the Law, is without them, in another, who was appointed their Cautioner: and therefore all appearance of any ground of boasting in themselves, is quite taken away by the Law of faith Romans 3: 27, and the reward is now wholly of grace, and not of debt Romans 4: 4.
VII. Though faith, and faith only be required of us, in order to our having interest in Christ and His righteousness, and to justification there through; Yet this leaves no ground of boasting unto man, or of glorying in himself; for it is in itself a plain solemn declaration of the believerís sense, conviction, and acknowledgment of his own beggarliness, poverty and nakedness, and of his being a dyvoure and non-solvendo, having no righteousness of his own, and renouncing all that is in him, in order to his own justification; and, as it were, a swearing of himself bare; and a laying hold upon a righteousness without him, even the righteousness of Christ, who is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone that believeth Romans 10: 3, 4 and resting upon it; and a producing of it, as the ground of his absolution, in face of court, to his own shame, and to the glory of his Cautioner. So far is it from being the manís righteousness, that it is a plain and open declaration, that he hath no righteousness, but must go to Christ for a righteousness. And so far is the believer from reflecting on it, as his righteousness, and from daring to present it to God, as his righteousness, and plead for absolution upon the ground thereof, as if it were perfect, and a full righteousness, according to the Gospel; that he only thereby saith, in the Lord have I righteousness; and he looks upon it, as most weak and imperfect; and, being encouraged by the free promise of God, he lays hold on Christ, with the trembling and weak hand of faith, which he hath; and oftentimes, so far is he from having any confidence in his faith, that with much doubting and hesitation, he, as almost despairing of being the better thereby, seeing no other outgate, or remedy, ventures, with a peradventure, he may be saved so, and that however he can but perish. How far, such a soul, that is fleeing to Christ for refuge, is from conceiving any ground of boasting in himself, is sufficiently plain, and the sense and experience of all, so exercised, can declare.
VIII. Even this act of the soul, looking out, going to, gripping and laying hold upon Jesus Christ and His righteousness, held forth and offered
in the Gospel to all self condemned sinners, despairing in themselves, is not of themselves; it is the gift of God Ephesians 2: 8. The Spirit of Jesus bows and inclines the soul hereunto, and determines the doubting man unto this choice, and makes him willing, whether it be in a lesser, or in a greater degree, to flee to Christ for shelter, from the storm of wrath, and to be saved from the curse: And though the soul, in the meanwhile, be not in case to observe and take notice of the powerful workings of grace herein; yet afterward he is in better case to see it, and to celebrate the rich and free grace of God, who hath visited him in his low condition, and began a work in him and never left him, until he landed him in Christ, in whom was all fullness, and he found he was complete, and through whom he obtained that delivery from wrath, which he was seeking after, merely out of His wonderful free grace and mercy.